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Kerbs and curbs, desire and damage: an affirmative account of children’s play and being well during the COVID-19 pandemic

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alison Stenning



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


The United Nations (2020) briefing on the impact of COVID-19 on children echoes a dominant narrative when it states that children risk being the pandemic’s biggest victims. Without denying the severity of such damage, this article explores two examples of playing during the pandemic alongside more affirmative Deleuzian accounts of desire, which can contribute to mitigating both the damage itself and what damage narratives perform. Using two fragments of data from research into children’s play during the first COVID-19 UK lockdown, we show how, despite the tightest of restrictions, moments of playfulness emerged from encounters between children, other bodies and the materiality and affective atmospheres of the street to produce moments of being well. In both fragments children play with the kerbs on the street, deterritorialising the curbs of both striated street spaces and lockdown in ways that temporarily enact a playful politics of space and produce moments of being well. We read these fragments through contemporary Deleuzian accounts of desire as a productive force. In so doing, we contribute to debates in relational ontologies of children’s geographies that address the micropolitics of children’s spatial practices.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Russell W, Stenning A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Social & Cultural Geography

Year: 2023

Volume: 24

Issue: 3-4

Pages: 680-698

Online publication date: 19/08/2022

Acceptance date: 16/08/2022

Date deposited: 07/10/2022

ISSN (print): 1464-9365

ISSN (electronic): 1470-1197

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/14649365.2022.2134582


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Funder referenceFunder name
Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship